“The greatest gift is a passion for reading” – Elizabeth Hardwick
My love affair with stories began at a very young age. Since the age of 8, when I read “The Hobbit”, I’ve been totally hooked.
As a child I loved having my grandparents stay over to babysit. Grandad would be dispatched to the Fish and Chip shop, for scampi and chips, and I’d be allowed to stay up late, to watch “The Two Ronnies”. The next morning I would burst into their room, jump under the covers and Granny would take us on fantastic, far away adventures on a magic carpet (the bed), created from whatever we pulled out of our imaginations.
There is nothing quite like reading with your little (and bigger) ones. Snuggling up with a book, somewhere calm and cosy helps them associate reading with emotional warmth and fun. My 10 year old still loves a bed-time story. It gives us a chance to relax and reconnect after our busy day at work and school. What’s wonderful is that I’ve already passed onto him a passion for storytelling – my heart melts when he cuddles up on the sofa with his 2 year old cousin and reads her a book.
According to the Literary Trust, there are significant benefits to telling children stories. In addition to the emotional boding, it helps build their concentration, vocabulary and conversational skills. It also supports the development of emotional intelligence, as the stories contain important life lessons.
In this technological and stressful age, bed-time stories are, for some families, sadly becoming a thing of the past.
“No two persons ever read the same book” – Edmund Wilson
As family, friends and blog followers will know from my previous blogs, I am a book junkie. When life allows, I can easily devour one in a day. There is always a pile of them, either on my kindle or in physical form, just waiting for me to get my teeth into.
What came as a surprise and a huge delight to me was that reading could be made even more enjoyable.
Several years ago I was invited to join a fabulous book group, with five work colleagues. We met up on a Friday evening every six weeks to discuss/debate a book, enjoy a glass (or two) of wine and to generally put the world to rights. There was great diversity in our taste in literature, and consequently we were stretched into reading books that we would never have considered.
The Reader Organisation (www.thereader.org.uk), together with Liverpool University, has been doing extensive research into the benefits of group reading. One study looked at Dementia sufferers and another at patients suffering from Depression.
For Dementia sufferers there was a significant reduction in dementia symptoms and improvements in short term/long term memory, listening skills and quality of life. Those suffering Depression experienced an increase in their mental health. They felt a sense of community – a part of something. Their confidence grew – they felt that they could put across their own views in a non-judgemental environment.
In his blog posting “Groundhog day and the Super Bowl” Seth Godin observes that we now have so much choice that our culture has fragmented. Essentially, we no longer have things in common with each other. We don’t belong. Belonging is an innate human need. If you belong, you are accepted and you feel valued.
A book provides the glue to stick a disparate room of people together. It gives them a shared purpose and a common language.
“So, please, oh PLEASE, we beg, we pray, go throw your TV set away. And in its place you can install, a lovely bookshelf on the wall” – Roald Dahl, Charlie & the Chocolate Factory
In their song quote above, the Oompa Loompas offer us some very sound advice.
It’s all too easy for us to sit in front of our TV or computer screens and to be spoon fed entertainment and information.
Research shows that reading sharpens our brain, de-stresses us, increases our empathy, helps us concentrate and enhances creativity. When done with others it provides connection.
Time spent reading fact or fiction, whether alone, with our children or in group, is truly time well spent.
So let’s harness the powers of reading to improve the quality of our lives and that of others.